The break from competitions this winter will be interrupted by the first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang, which will take place for the first time this weekend. Thanks to the winter break, many riders will fly to Malaysia to take part in this endurance race.
Special guest of the event is Franco Morbidelli, who will be part of the track crew at the Sepang circuit. The home team went all out, and the Italian rider will take turns riding the Yamaha R1 with Hafizh Syahrin - who raced in the MotoGP this year with the Tech 3 team's KTM, and with Michael van der Mark - the Iwata factory's official rider in the SBK and 4-time winner of another famous 8 Hours: Suzuka.
If the Dutch rider knows what to expect from an endurance race, we can't say the same for Morbidelli, so the Sepang adventure will be brand new to him.
"I haven't yet tried the R1 that I'll be using in the race. I don't even know in what configuration it'll be, but I'm sure it'll be good," he joked around with us on the sidelines of the last MotoGP tests in Jerez. "I'll only be getting on the bike a few days before, and then I'll race."
Franco is used to sprint races, but he'll have to know how to handle much longer riding rounds in Malaysia.
"Actually, I don't know what to expect. I'll train as usual, then I'll figure out what will happen. I'm really curious," he added.
Tests, free practice sessions, and qualifications will be held on Wednesday, December 11th, while the top 10 positions on the grid will be decided by the top 10 tests the following day. The fastest rider from each of the 10 teams in qualifying will be back on track for a flying lap, and the times achieved will decide the first positions on the grid.
As mentioned, the Sepang circuit has set up a mega team, but there's still definitely competition with 50 crews entered in the race. Lots of endurance experts (like our Niccolò Canepa on the Yart Yamaha with Broc Parkes and Marvin Fritz) will be present, but also many more or less recent World Championship riders.
We've already spoken about Randy De Puniet because he'll be on the track with a Ducati and, with him, Louis Rossi, who has a past in the Moto2. Markus Reiterberger - a name well known among SBK enthusiasts - will instead be riding a BMW, while Xavier Simeon - who took part in the MotoE this year after racing in the MotoGP - will be riding a Yamaha. Worth a mention among the Italians are Roberto Rolfo and Luca Scassa, both enrolled in the Superstock class.
One last interesting fact: there's also an Aprilia from a Japanese team in the race.
The race will start on Saturday, December 14th, 6 am Italian time.